Guest Post: The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

Denise, today’s guest reviewer, is an avid reader and is currently studying library science.

Goodreads: The Story Girl
Series: The Story Girl #1

Summary: Beverley and Felix King have never been to the place that their father grew up, though they have visited time and time again through their father’s tales. Then one summer they are sent to live with their cousins and soon find themselves immersed in the stories in a way only the Story Girl could manage, stories of childhood, family and friendship – a bonding of past, present, and future remembered and retold with the unabashed delight of a child.

Review: Sara Stanley, or the Story Girl as she is known throughout the small town of Carlisle, has been described as “L.M. Montgomery’s most enchanting heroine since Anne of Green Gables,” high praise as any Montgomery devotee knows. And indeed, there is much in the character of the Story Girl that recalls Anne Shirley – from her love of romanticizing and telling stories to her stubborn temper and her preference for dramatic penance. Indeed, The Story Girl could very well be the story of Anne’s childhood had she a family to go to when her parents died, though the Story Girl’s father, at least, is alive and well despite his lack of physical presence in the novel.

In a similar stylistic choice to that of Anne of Green Gables, the story is told through a series of vignettes, held together by the simplicity of time passing as it is wont to do. Structuring the novel this way allows Montgomery to highlight the beauty and fascination that the everyday – the mundane to some – can hold if we but let it. The story is undoubtedly about the Story Girl, but it is told from neither her point of view nor that of an omniscient narrator. Instead, Montgomery chooses Beverely King to be her narrator, an adolescent boy captivated by the world he discovers in Carlisle. Undoubtedly this was a deliberate stylistic decision, perhaps to further differentiate Sara from Anne. At one point in the novel, though, Sara expresses a preference for using spoken word to tell stories for she is much more eloquent that way as opposed to her attempts at writing, so perhaps this decision was an attempt to stay consistent with the character of the Story Girl. Choosing Beverely as her voice also places the reader in the position of experiencing the story from a perspective lodged between the fascination of childhood and the acknowledgement of the adult, a perspective that would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, to have established through an omniscient viewpoint. This was the first Montgomery novel that I have read in which a boy is narrating, though to be quite honest, the story felt no different from others written from a feminine viewpoint.

All in all, The Story Girl is a brilliant work in its own right and brings to its reader an appreciation of the slowness and simplicity of a time past, easily overlooked in a society like ours today. It reminds readers to take time to enjoy the daily pleasures and laugh at the daily tragedies, to be present in a life only too willing to propel us forward at the risk of being left behind.

Published: 1911

6 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

  1. Krysta says:

    I remember not liking The Story Girl or its sequel that much, certainly not as much as Montgomery’s other works–perhaps, in part, because the narrator seems to have a distancing effect on the story. I really didn’t feel as if I’d gotten to know Sara in the same way I knew Anne, Emily, and Pat. At the same time, I felt as if Montgomery was telling me I really ought to like this character because she magical and she made magic. But if just made me feel like there was some enchanted land Montgomery was inviting me into and I was locked out.

    After reading your review, though, I really think I ought to give The Story Girl another chance. After all, I didn’t like Magic for Marigold that much the first time I read it (and I gather from Goodreads that it is definitely not that popular with Montgomery fans in general), but when I reread it I saw a lot that I’d previously missed.

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    • Denise Petrik says:

      I mean, reading this book while living in the city really brought some interesting contrasts for me – and only made me want to leave the city all the more. But I do understand what you mean when you say that the narrator seemed more distant. It was one of the first thing I noticed, as I had initially expected The Story Girl to, you know, be narrated by The Story Girl. In a way, it does encourage the magic of The Story Girl though, if only because her stories are being told through Beverley – almost allowing a dualistic explanation for either the success of the magic being felt or the failure. After all, if Beverley can retell the instances in this way, only imagine what The Story Girl’s version must have been like!

      The Story Girl has nothing on Anne though, despite the fact that they are very similar.

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      • Krysta says:

        Oh, I agree. It’s hard to compare to Anne. In some ways, it almost seems like Montgomery was always trying to recapture what she created there, even though her subsequent protagonists are all distinct individuals. However, she did write The Story Girl a mere three years after Anne, so perhaps that accounts for why people see a greater similarity with Sara and Anne than say with Emily or Pat. In fact, Pat’s shyness could almost be seen as a reaction to Anne’s extreme spunk.

        That is a really good explanation for Beverly’s, though it does suggest that Montgomery didn’t trust herself to convey a story good enough to be considered magical without its being filtered through another character. However, since the power of story in this case is really supposed to lie in the sound, I see why she might have felt the need to do that.

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